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StarBulletin.com

Honolulu Mayor


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
 

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Mufi Hannemann

Age: 54

Job: Honolulu mayor

Past: City Council chairman; director, DBEDT; corporate executive, White House fellow

What qualifies you to be Honolulu’s mayor?

First, my on-the-job experience as mayor, during which we tackled a grossly neglected infrastructure, cleaned up parks, repaired roads and planned for mass transit solutions. We helped preserve Waimea Valley and Pupukea, instituted numerous recycling initiatives, helped revitalize Chinatown and Waikiki, and are transforming Kapolei into a great city. We have overseen improvements to our public safety departments, making Honolulu the safest big city in America, and improved our bond rating while receiving two “clean audits.” Secondly, my experience as the City Council chairman, in state government and the private sector, service under four presidents, and leadership position with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

 

If elected, will you proceed with the city’s planned rail transit project?

Yes. A fixed-guideway mass transit system featuring steel wheel on rail technology, as selected by an outside panel of experts, will be the centerpiece of a multi-modal transportation system. More bikeways, more pedestrian walkways, new park and rides, the ferry and a hybrid-powered bus system with multiple transit centers, will all integrate into the fixed-guideway system giving our residents transportation options in a time of increasing fuel and parking costs, not to mention escalating gridlock.

Under what circumstances would you consider raising city taxes or fees?

I was willing to ask the Council to increase sewer fees to finance the tremendous backlog of sewer system repairs that are not only required by the EPA and federal court, but are essential to protect Oahu from future spills that could occur anywhere, at any time, endangering us all. If those fees had been gradually raised as planned over the past 10 years, we would not be playing catch-up. Circumstances where public health and/or safety are at stake, as with our sewer system, do not allow for political posturing.

What can the mayor do to address the homeless problem on Oahu?

The responsibility and resources for addressing issues like housing, homelessness, poverty, drug addiction and mental health belong to the state government. We have leveraged the city’s limited resources to help nonprofit organizations establish homeless resource centers in three communities and developed a work readiness program to assist those considered “chronically homeless” through Oahu WorkLinks, the city’s one-stop employment center. We are establishing a rental assistance program for homeless people interested in seeking employment, and are building a 100-unit rental housing project for the homeless with severe mental illness.

What can the city do to help residents cope with rising prices and an ailing economy?

If a mass transit system had been begun in the mid-’90s, Oahu would have avoided the pain of the economic slowdown in Hawaii during that decade. The sooner we begin construction of our multi-modal system, the cheaper it will be and millions of dollars will flow into the economy and thousands of jobs created at all levels. This includes private sector development near stations. In a period of declining real property values nationwide, I can only point to the fact that in Charlotte, N.C., property values are soaring along a new rail system that is also experiencing vastly exceeded ridership expectations.

What is the most pressing issue facing Oahu, and, if elected, what would you do about it?

The most pressing issue is our quality of life. Horrendous traffic and long-neglected infrastructure needs confronted us when we took office in 2005. We have attacked these issues head-on and will continue to do. For example, we are building a multimodal transit system with rail as the centerpiece, have filled over 176,000 potholes, resurfaced 111 lane miles, committed over $200 million to road repair and invested over $1 billion in sewer rehabilitation, with another $1.5 billion in repairs forecast over the next six years.

 

 

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Ann Kobayashi

Age: 71

Job: Honolulu City Council member

Past: State legislator

What qualifies you to be Honolulu’s mayor?

My primary goal in elected office has always been to improve the quality of life for the residents of our island community. I served as a state senator for 14 years and six years as a member of the City Council. I have acquired a broad-based knowledge of government operations. I believe this is vitally important to the vision and skills required of an effective leader. I have been a constant advocate for our elderly, Oahu’s keiki and the disadvantaged in our community. As mayor, I will continue my commitment ... to improve the quality of life for our residents.

 

If elected, will you proceed with the city’s planned rail transit project?

I also remain firm in my support of the right of our residents to have the opportunity to vote on this important issue that will affect everyone financially today and in the future.

Under what circumstances would you consider raising city taxes or fees?

As mayor and as a taxpayer, I would propose a fiscally responsible city budget. The only circumstances that would warrant an increase in taxes or fees are those in which public health and safety might be compromised.

What can the mayor do to address the homeless problem on Oahu?

The mayor can work with state and federal agencies, nonprofits and private industries to assist in obtaining the tools and resources to provide assistance to the homeless community, such as job training and mental health care.

What can the city do to help residents cope with rising prices and an ailing economy?

The city has to work within a fiscally responsible budget and still maintain the core city services. In hard economic times we need to establish priorities on what is nice to have and what is necessary to keep our city vibrant. The city should look at ways in which to operate an efficient government while providing the necessary services for our residents.

What is the most pressing issue facing Oahu, and, if elected, what would you do about it?

Increases in the cost of living and doing business on Oahu in the face of declining tax revenues will present the greatest challenge to our island community—living within our means. Driven primarily by the rising fuel costs, all goods and services will cost us more, including the cost of government operations. As mayor, I would immediately call for a re-examination of budget priorities. Based on my years of experience at both the state and county levels, and in particular as chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and as budget chairwoman of the City Council, I have the qualifications needed to guide our city government through tough economic times.